Monday, March 2, 2015

Christina Hollis - Do You Need an Agent?

Please welcome Christina Hollis to the blog today!

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The obvious answer to that question is no. Writers have so many options now. Some big publishers have started offering open sessions, when they ask people who don’t have agents to make submissions. You can self-publish your work, and keep all the profit.  So why sacrifice 15% of your writing income to a literary agent? Surely it’s a luxury you can do without? To date, I've sold three million novels (including my latest release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion), hundreds of non-fiction articles, and loads of short stories, all without an agent—so it can be done. The problem is, there’s a price—and I’m not talking wholly about money. If your aim is publication, writing a book is only the start. You then have to get it published. Whether you do this yourself, or you’re taken up by a publishing house, you’ll also have to get out there and sell it. The days are long gone when you handed your manuscript over to a third party then sat back, waiting for the money to roll in. 

Without an agent, get ready to spend  hours online, checking out which publishers are buying in your genre. You'll need to read the type of books on their lists, and target your submissions. If you’re a self-publisher, you’ll need to liaise with professional editors and cover artists to make sure you do justice to your work.

Once you’re published, by whatever means, your book must hit the real and virtual marketplaces. All this eats into time you should be using to write your next book. Most people have to fit their writing around their day job. Which would you rather do in your precious free time—write, or trawl the net in the name of research, getting distracted by the lure of social media every step of the way?

This is where literary agents, with their ready-made networks, earn their money. They take much of the non-writing stuff off your shoulders. They've  also got the inside track on current market trends. A lot of writers recoil from phrases like that, which is where agents score. They’re dedicated business people, who know who's buying, and exactly what those potential buyers are looking for. On the other side of the equation, publishers use literary agents as a shortcut—the first stage in quality control. A publisher may be more likely to check out your project if it’s already been vetted by a reputable agent. 

Once a publisher says yes, the horse-trading starts. Most writers are loners. Can you honestly say you'd feel happy negotiating the best terms for your contract, if you've never done it before? Professional bodies such as The Society of Authors will vet contracts for you if you're a member, but that takes time to arrange. And if this is your first book, can you really see yourself getting the best deal over publicity arrangements, tour dates, extending deadlines when necessary and sorting out foreign editions and rights? Really?

Writing is a lonely business. A good agent is a supporter, and that’s a great feeling. It takes the pressure off, knowing that someone is taking care of business. It gives you the chance to get the "creative" back into your "creative writing". 

To return to what I wrote at the beginning: yes, I might have sold three million books without the benefit of an agent. But how many more books would I have managed to write if I'd had an expert on hand to help me target my work and do all the paperwork, while I got on with the fun stuff?
Have you got an agent? What are your experiences?

About Christina
I live deep in the English countryside. I met my husband on a blind date, and during a career break to raise our family I wrote non-fiction articles and award-winning short stories for national magazines, to fit in with my parenting timetable.
My first full length novel, Knight’s Pawn, was an historical romance published by Harlequin Mills and Boon under my pen name of Polly Forrester. Then in 2007, Mills and Boon published my first Modern Romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. Since then, I’ve written many full-length historical novels and contemporary romances which have been released internationally by various publishers. In all, my work has been translated into nearly twenty different languages. 


My current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is available From The Wild Rose Press at http://bit.ly/1ujX5zc and Amazon at http://amzn.to/1zajHZA (US) and http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv (UK). You can find a selection of my other work at http://christinahollis.com, find out what I’m doing right now by following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChristinaBooks, liking my Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/1Ee1urM and following my blog at http://christinahollis.blogspot.com
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His Majesty’s Secret Passion by Christina Hollis



Available from: http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv

Blurb:
Leo Gregoryan is determined to be the perfect king. Loyalty to his country means sacrificing his
own happiness, but he’ll divert the energy he once poured into his dream of becoming a doctor toward royal duties. All he needs right now is a stress-free vacation–no future queen need apply. Sara Astley escapes to the luxurious Paradise Hotel after she’s dumped by her partner, who then stole the promotion she’d expected. She hides her broken dreams behind a tough exterior. Her stubborn streak makes her a challenge Leo can’t resist. His special brand of hands-on persuasion seduces Sara into enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Their fling can't hurt either of them–or so they think. Leo's focussed on being the ideal hero. Sara knows what she wants, and that’s independence. Then a revelation tears them apart, meaning things can never be the same between them...

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold over two million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at http://www.christinahollis.com. Her current release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, is published by Wild Rose Press.


One Kindle copy giveaway of His Majesty’s Secret Passion

Link to signed copies giveaway on Goodreads

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Thanks Christina! I've always been so impressed with the agents I've had contact with. Great people who are passionate about their jobs and the stories they take on. They sure have a lot to offer writers! There are so many different paths we can take. Finding the right one is a very individual experience.

What do you think? Agent or solo? What's the best path for you?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rachael Thomas - Critique Partners are Invaluable

Please Welcome Rachael Thomas to the blog today!

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One of the best decisions I made as I began my writing journey was to join The Romance Writers of Australia. Apart from the great competitions they organise, I discovered the Critique Partner scheme. It definitely helped my writing and made me look at my work through different eyes. Having another writer read and critique your work is so much more beneficial than simply asking a friend or family member to do the same. After all, who would be more honest?

Critique Partners are exactly the right person to go to if you hit a sticky patch and don’t know where your story should go, or to have chapters read and critiqued and best of all, to bounce ideas around with. Whatever it is, having another writer read you work and offer constructive advice is invaluable. Why? Because as the writer, you are too close to your work. Not only do you not see those silly mistakes we all make, you can be forcing your story in a direction it doesn’t need to go. Just having someone suggest an alternative can bring you back and set you off on a much better storyline.

CP’s can also be helpful if you have deadlines for competitions or submissions and can help to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. Together you can build a nice relationship, one that can span oceans, which is exactly what happened for me. I was lucky enough to be matched with three fabulous Australian writers, Joanne, Louise and Kathi and over the years we’ve built brilliant relationships. I really hope that one day I’ll get to a RWA conference and meet them in person. I’m also very fortunate that I have several writing friends here in the UK too. We often rent a small cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside and spend the weekend reading through each other’s work as well as writing.

So, if you are writing romance and need someone to bounce ideas off, join RWA, it doesn't matter where you live and you can select who you'd like to be partnered with on the Critique Partner scheme. It's also really helpful to link up with other writers you meet and organize your own retreat weekends.
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About Rachael: I grew up in the Midlands, but when I moved to Wales, over twenty years ago, I found a place to finally put down roots. I married into a farming family and embarked on a massive learning curve which also saw me learning Welsh when my two children were small. 

Writing is something I have always wanted to do and I can still remember the thrill of one of my short stories being held up as an example to the class when I was about nine. It wasn’t until my own children were in school that I seriously started to pursue my dream. I joined a local writing group which met every Monday afternoon and being with like-minded people was the boost I needed. 

Reading romance had always been my first love, and just about every short story I wrote was romance, so I decided to write my first book. During that process I also attended my first weekend writing course with Kate Walker and joined the RNA’s fabulous New Writers’ Scheme. A short time later I joined Romance Writers of Australia and learnt a lot from entering their competitions. I sought out courses and you can imagine my joy when I discovered Sharon Kendrick’s course in beautiful Tuscany. 

 Behind the Scandalous Fa├žade, my So You Think You Can Write entry, is my thirteenth book and although only eight have those magic words ‘the end’ written on them the others are definitely part of the learning process I have enjoyed over the last six years. 

 I love escaping to distant shores with my characters, entering their glamorous world and feeling all the emotions they experience as they discover their love for one another. A love so strong it will overcome all obstacles eventually, leading to that promised happy ever after. 

Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web: 
Website         Blog        Facebook                Twitter              Goodreads


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Claimed by the Sheikh by Rachael Thomas

Claimed by the Sheikh

by Rachael Thomas

Giveaway ends March 02, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
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Thanks Rachael! I agree - CPs are amazing and impossible to live without. My 2 crit buddies (Jean & Cali) are amazing ladies and together we've become much stronger writers. Can't imagine doing this without them!

How about you? Want to give your CPs a shoutout in the comments? How did you meet up?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reading Aloud

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about some benefits of reading aloud your own work. I hope you'll pop on over and join the discussion.

Our teachers never read aloud to us when we were in school. I wish they had.

When I'm in the classroom, I read aloud to my students every day. It's often the favourite part of the day for me and the students. There's something very special about sharing a good story about strong characters. We talk about why things happened, what we think will happen, and agonize when things go wrong.

Over the years I've developed a huge pile of favourite read-alouds. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, The Outsiders by SE Hinton, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan are huge favourites with the older kids. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, The Giver by Lois Lowry, & Dogsled Dreams & Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson are the faves for the slightly younger crowd. And then are lots more!

How about you? Any favourite memories of books read aloud by teachers?

Monday, January 26, 2015

First and Last Lines

A year or so ago, I read some advice on writing out the first and last line of every chapter in a list (if this was on your blog, please give yourself a shout out in the comments for me!).

I don't remember all the reasons, but as I'm reading through my NaNo novel, I'm keeping track of these lines in a file within my Scrivener folder and I'm finding some interesting things.
  • only a few of my first lines really stink
  • some of them are even pretty good
  • my last lines are often very short - 1-3 words
  • my characters are pretty sarcastic
  • putting the 1st and last lines together gives a great summary of the chapter's emotion
  • reading the list through gives a great sense of the story - and of the pace (which I always need help with). Much more helpful for editing than I expected
Doing this has helped me see I've grown as a writer too. I'm coming into scenes later and exiting earlier - trusting in the reader more. (Thanks to my fabulous CPs once again!!!)

Have you ever tried this? Any great first or last lines to share?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Keep Calm & Scrivener On!

So, I'm reading through my NaNo draft and finding lots to like...and more than a few things that just don't work. Pretty normal for a 1st draft, I'd say.

I've now realized I've got to switch the order of 2 of the Major Events. This will entail millions (or so it seems) of ripple effect changes throughout the entire story. More or less a complete rewrite while keeping the essence of the story.

Slightly terrifying! Exciting too.

If you've used Scrivener, you know that you can make notes on each file (scenes for me) and notes for the entire document. I use that one to keep track of the Big Idea Changes I need to make -- things like making one character more evasive, make the other crankier, keep the sexual tension up, add description etc.

I also keep a couple of folders that aren't part of the ms. Inside my Outlines folder, I have my rather pathetic attempts to plot. One is a (far too brief) synopsis, another has a chart outlining proposed chapters, another has a bullet list for main ideas of each chapter, and so on. Because I might actually be the world's worst plotter, there are far too many files and I'm about to add at least one more with my newest ideas for rearranging the plot lines. Hoping to find a method that really works for me soon,

Another folder is my To Do Folder with Things to Add, Big Ideas, & Fix This!

Depending on my mood and need, I can keep one of these files open alongside my current chapter. Or I can keep my current chapter in one window and the new version in the other. GREAT way to use the good bits and eliminate the garbage.

Then, I can easily slip the scenes around the MS with a few drags of the mouse. For me, it makes the rewriting process a lot less daunting and the mountain I've got to climb doesn't seem as steep.

Are you a Scrivener fan? Any tips to share? How do you feel about those major rewrites? Any magic wands to turn me into a Plotter Extraordinaire?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy Giveaway!

And Happy New Year too!

I hope 2015 is YOUR year and you find all kinds of wonderful moments to treasure.

To celebrate a fresh start for 2015, over at From the Write Angle we're celebrating with a huge Giveaway. Check out this list!

R.C. Lewis - Signed STITCHING SNOW
MarcyKate Connolly - Signed MONSTROUS (On release date)
Mindy McGinnis - Signed NOT A DROP TO DRINK & IN A HANDFUL OF DUST
Sophie Perinot - Signed SISTER QUEENS & DAY OF FIRE
S.L. Duncan - Signed THE REVELATION OF GABRIEL ADAM
Cat Woods - Signed TALES FROM THE BULLY BOX and WHISPERING MINDS
Jemi Fraser - Kindle editions of SUBMISSION & SURRENDER by Cali McKay and EGGNOG & CANDY CANES by Jean Oram
Matt SinclairWINTER'S REGRET anthology from Elephant's Bookshelf Press
R.S. Mellette - Signed BILLY BOBBLE MAKES A MAGIC WAND
J. Lea Lopez - Signed SORRY'S NOT ENOUGH
Riley RedgateEXTRACTION by Stephanie Diaz

As you can see, many of my talented buddies are already published (or have debuts coming out soon) and the books range from MG to YA to historical fiction to romance. So many great books!

Hurry over and enter - what better way to start the new year than with free books! Good luck!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Wish

'Tis the season for wishes! The next few weeks look to be filled with family, love,, and barely controlled chaos (so, pretty much normal for around here :)), and I'm not sure how much I'll be around the bloggy-verse. In case I don't catch up with you, I thought I'd send you my wishes now!

I wish you...

  • a warm and happy home filled with love
  • a friendly face to greet you every day
  • time to relax and enjoy and just 'be'
  • the opportunity to stretch your wings
  • a joyous holiday season
  • that special something you've been secretly craving
  • a healthy, happy, fun, and fulfilling 2015

What's one of your wishes? What's that special something for you?